Monday, 30 January 2012

Chesterfield reach Wembley for third time in their history

Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, Northern Area Final second leg.

Oldham Athletic  0

Chesterfield  1

Lester 89 minutes. 

Aggregate Chesterfield 3 Oldham Athletic 1

Chesterfield made it through to Wembley in the Johnstone Paints Trophy after pinching a late winner to win this tie 3-1 on aggregate. The result was harsh on the home side, who did most of the attacking, only to find the Spireites keeper Tommy Lee in fine form.

Oldham started the game quickly and less than sixty seconds had gone when Shefki Kuqi, fastening on to Robbie Simpson’s long ball, beat Lee only to see his shot cannon back into play off the post. Continuing to play impressively, Simpson then curled a delightful ball to the back post where Filipe Morais had his powerful header well saved by the keeper.

With Chesterfield in the first twenty minutes rarely threatening, Simpson then had a twenty-yard shot well stopped by Lee, and then the keeper was grateful to see Kuqi flash a ten yard shot well wide after Gregor Robertson misjudged his header. Morais then drove a shot wide from a promising position before Drew Talbot hit Chesterfield’s first chance straight at Alex Cisak in the home goal.

The Chesterfield veteran striker Jack Lester had been very quiet, but on 35 minutes he showed a touch of quality to set up Scott Boden whose strong shot was saved by the Oldham keeper at the second attempt. The first booking of the game arrived soon after, when Gregor Robertson brought down Simpson. On the stroke of half-time Lee was down smartly to prevent Diamond from forcing home a bouncing ball.

With the score goalless at the interval it meant Chesterfield were on track to reach Wembley for the first time since 1995, when they beat Bury in the Division Four play offs. This was a year after the Latics had last played at the world famous Stadium, when they lost to Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final, and buoyed by the prospect of a return they again pushed forward on the restart.

Playing in midfield for the home side was Tom Adeyemi, on loan from Norwich City, a player racially abused when Oldham played at Anfield in the third round of the FA Cup. He had a quiet game, but showed his stamina by getting more involved in it the longer it progressed. He passed the ball well, and shows a nice shimmy to send an opposing player the wrong way, but failed to shoot when well placed to do so.

It was Chesterfield who should have taken the lead, on 48 minutes, when Jamie Lowry’s fine ball sent Drew Talbot running unopposed into the Oldham box, but the Chesterfield midfielders shot was too close to Cisak who saved it with his feet. When Oldham responded Lee confidently collected a Morais drive, before James Hurst and Mark Allott were booked as Chesterfield’s defence struggled to prevent Oldham equalising the tie on aggregate.

Morais then had Lee scampering across his line, but the ball finished on the roof of the net before the keeper did well to block a Kuqi header as the game moved towards the final ten minutes.

Then on 89 minutes Jean Yves Moto and Cisak, seeking to get the ball down the field as quickly as possible, only succeeded in getting in each others way and when the ball ran free Lester was like lightning in getting beyond the pair to push the ball into an empty net. Queue ecstatic celebrations amongst the 937 Chesterfield fans behind the goal as they started to celebrate a famous victory that will take them to Wembley for only the third time in the club’s history.

With six added minutes, Oldham continued to press but rarely threatened and at the end the Chesterfield players ran across to spark further celebrations amongst the away fans. Chesterfield will play either Swindon Town or Barnet in the final at Wembley on March 25th 2012.  

“We will enjoy the day, but we are going there to win” said Chesterfield manager John Sheridan, who also praised his side for their battling performance, defensive skills and will to win.

Over 5,000 fans, including 937 from Chesterfield watched the game at Boundary Park 

What’s happening in Iran? Interview with Iranian activist.

What’s happening in Iran? 
Interview with Iranian activist, who for obvious reasons shall remain anonymous. 

1. Does the Iranian President have the people’s support in ‘standing up to the West’ and the USA in particular?

Really the question here is who is the President and who does he represent? Is he elected or selected?

Iran is unlike France and America where people elect the President. Elections are not real. Governments are imposed on people and they only use the democratic tool to legitimise themselves. There has never been a free and democratic election, either to establish the Islamic Republic of Iran or to legitimise any of its actions. As result, if we say people’s support?? Certainly not, but the regime does have a small and well-organised group of followers that include mercenaries.

2. Do people believe that military action may be imminent?

That’s hard to answer. People wish for fall of this regime, but at what price? War helps them to stay in power even longer. Bluffing is part of the regimes propaganda and they really want to provoke an attack on Iran.

3. I gather you are concerned at the increasing drug trade, especially in the Kurdish regions of Iran. Can you explain?

Yes this is correct. The Iranian regime uses three main elements to strengthen their position within or even outside of Iran. 
* Religious propaganda: to keep people in idiocy.
* Military: which is more against its own people rather than outside threats.  
* Drugs: both inside and outside of Iran. It is not only exclusive to Kurdistan (Iran or Iraq), but to other regions as well. However it has been one of the regimes policies in the Kurdish regions, where there is always more resistance to central governments actions. 

4. Is there any indication that workers are organising themselves within unions to push up wages and play a part in the political process in Iran?

No, there are not any real worker syndicates or unions. The regime controls and monitors the real workers, exerting constant pressure on them. Many workers are sacked or even imprisoned. Many factory employees have not been paid for months or in some cases even for years and factories are closing down. Yet on the other hand Chinese goods are being heavily imported to Iran.

5. Iran is developing links with China. Why is this important to the current regime?

Two reason. First, to secure China’s backing in international affairs and secondly, China is a big oil market and while many European nations have sanctioned dealings with Iran, China is currently willing to exchange goods for oil.

6. Are those opposed to the current regime being politically persecuted? [

They are, and many influential members of past governments have been imprisoned, some of them even without legal trials. Within this group are the Prime Minister of Iran during the Iraq war in the 1980s, a parliamentary speaker and many members of previous parliaments and government ministers.

Many students, workers, intellectuals, white-collar workers and minority national front groups at first were fooled by the regime and collaborated with them. They were hoping to witness reform from within, something that never happened. Now they are considered as opposition too. The regime does not accept any sort of objections even from people close to the regime itself. There are many recent cases and frame ups are so normal that people no longer believe in media shown confessions, as they know of the brutal conditions under which people are held in prisons.

The worst part is that no human right groups can defend those arrested as even well-known lawyers are now in prison. In the Iranian judicial system they arrest people for unfounded and baseless crimes. One recent one was “crime against god”. Public protest is stamped on harshly.

7. How have the Iranian people – and the regime in charge - viewed ‘the Arab Spring revolt’?

Differently. For the vast majority of people it is the Arab revolt against dictatorship. However the Iranian regime sees and calls it an Islamic Awakening and the result of Iranian revolution. However because of the close ties with Syria the regime in Iran prefers to regard this as interference by outside forces rather than a people’s uprising.

8. With the world economic crisis then has the standard of living of ordinary Iranian’s been affected?

It has. There are three different numbers of inflation in Iran. The Government’s: at 12%, financial institutions at 20% and others who have estimated it at 40%.
The gap between rich and poor is widening more and more. The Iranian currency has lost its value in recent weeks and it means even more pressure for people. The West expects and hopes this pressure results in more objections from people, but one should remember any mass protest and revolt from the people is because of an objection to the regime and not because of the needs of outside forces. 

Remploy future remains in doubt

The threatened closure of 54 Remploy factories shows the government is “intent on destroying the social welfare gains made after World War Two.” That’s the view of Brian Anderson, the Unite workplace rep at Wythenshawe print works, Manchester.
Like his 21 colleagues, part of a national workforce of 2,800, he is waiting anxiously to hear Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, announce the result of the Department of Work and Pensions consultation on the Sayce Report that recommended closing all of Remploy’s factories.
It would be a sad end for the government owned company established under the 1944 Disabled Persons [Employment] Act, with the first factory opening two years later in Bridgend, South Wales. At Remploy thousands of disabled people have benefited materially and mentally from having a proper job with the company.
After 23 years as an employee Brian, partially sighted in one eye, has witnessed this for himself saying, “employment here gives people pride and status. Some people only go out to come to work.  I fear 90% will never work again if the factory shuts. Rather than contributing to the economy they will be an additional expense. I believe we have a future if the government were prepared to use procurement rules to place orders with us.”
Brian supports the Access to Work Fund that financially supports employers who hire individual disabled people. He’s not convinced however by government claims, used to support shutting Remploy down, that the average cost of helping 37,300 disabled people find work under it in 2009-10 was just £2,600. His letter asking the DWP to clarify matters however currently remains unanswered and he suspects the figures “are mainly composed of part time workers and volunteers.”
With Miller having said – even before the consultation period had ended - she was “attracted” to the Sayce Report conclusions Brian, a life-long union member has fully supported the Unite and GMB campaign to defend all the factories. This included participating with colleagues in the massive Manchester march in October to the Tory Party conference at the end of which he heard UNITE general secretary Len McCluskey praise their efforts and say, "They are fighting for their dignity and against an unscrupulous government.”
In 2007-08 the two unions forced the Labour Government to climb down from plans to close 43 factories. Eighteen were rescued including Wythenshawe.  The fight to save the remaining 54 continues.


Every sane person now accepts that asbestos and smoking aren’t good for you. Mind you it’s taken millions to die to ‘prove’ it. Following on from an article on this site – Out of sight is not out of mind, Graham Cliff, asks whether the dangers of nanoparticles are now being similarly ignored. Graham is a Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences at the University of Manchester. His email is

Would the late Doctors Richard Doll, John Knox, Irving Selikoff and Vernon Timbrell, tolerate the present state of affairs with respect to the regulation of anthropogenic nanoparticles, that prevails today in the twenty first century?

As a non-smoking, so called “expert” in the identification of asbestos, I don’t believe so.

Professor Sir Richard Doll’s obituary, in the Telegraph, 25 Jul 2005 (1), described him as an epidemiologist and former Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University. He was one of the first two scientists to link smoking, with lung cancer, in a report in the British Medical Journal of 1950, which concluded “The risk of developing the disease increases in proportion to the amount smoked". This early study was the first in the world to show that smoking could cause not only lung cancer but also heart attacks. Doll subsequently collaborated with Dr. John Knox (2), Chief Medical Officer with Turner Brothers Asbestos of Rochdale, and with others, to publish a series of papers analyzing the mortality of asbestos workers with reference to the incidence of lung cancer.

In retrospect, the time lag in each case between initial demonstrations and general acceptance of the hazard seems to be inordinately long. In part, these delays subsequently resulted from protests, drawn-out court actions and biased scientific investigations by vested interests. In some cases, rearguard actions continued long after courts had started awarding damages for the illnesses. At the present stage of knowledge, relating exposure to sub PM2.5 particulates and adverse effects on health, it is tempting to draw a parallel with earlier discoveries in the 20th century, of factors with adverse health effects, e.g. ionizing radiation, radioactivity, heavy metals, certain organic compounds and not just cigarette smoking and asbestos. It is to be hoped in this instance that the appropriate responses will be put in place in a more timely fashion, unpalatable, as many aspects will undoubtedly be. (3)

In summary, views about some of the questionable benefits of ignoring air quality regulation today, when set against some of the potential costs to health, bear comparison with failure in the 20th century. Taking effective precautionary action to avoid the plausible hazards of smoking and aerosol asbestos exposure would have saved much health harm, reduced treatment costs and other attendant inability to work costs. The precautionary principle was just not applied with any rigour.

Professor Vyvyan Howard, of Ulster University, NI, has commented on poor air quality since before 2004, when he is quoted as remarking that “nanoparticles can cross the blood-brain barrier” Other studies have linked nanoparticles to cardiovascular disease, asthma, lung fibrosis and Alzheimer’s disease (dementia). (4)

Also in 2004, Professor Ann Dowling, in a Royal Society Report stated that “Nanoparticles can behave quite differently from larger particles of the same material and this can be exploited in a number of exciting ways. But it is vital that we determine both the positive and negative effects they might have.” (5)

The late Dr. Vernon Timbrell commented upon the warnings about the smallest of particles being too often totally ignored, in 1996. Perhaps he was concerned that, as with smoking, he was seeing with asbestos the need to wait until victims existed to prove that warnings were justified? My own early research involved the analysis of aerosol asbestos particles, and I subsequently analysed aerosols containing combustion products, which can massively reduce air quality with its smoke emissions, regulated to only PM2.5.

From December 1971 I was able to examine particles to about 50nm in the first Analytical Electron Microscope, the AEI EMMA -4.  From October 1973 until April 1974, in the Reserve Mining versus the EPA court case (the longest running US environmental court case), the doctors from Mount Sinai, including Dr. Irving Selikoff, could not then do this. They had declared that discovering an infinitesimal particle (an asbestos fiber) was “incomparably difficult”! (6)

My techniques for aerosol particle analysis were developed to achieve analysis to nanometre dimensions and atom analysis limits. With my colleague Peter Kenway, I published the engineering design criteria needed to do this in 1989. (7)

It has taken 22 years for this to be realised in the modern FEI ChemiSTEM. (8)

It will be capable of achieving particle analysis of nanoparticles and fully characterise them.
Although today, the only nanoparticles it seems to analyse are catalysts. It does not appear to be used to analyse potentially harmful nanoparticles from aerosols. Perhaps because this does not provide a profit?

I hope not and I hope that the many warning of the inadequacy of regulation of nanoparticles is recognised.

Professor John Dearden, of Liverpool John Moores University has remarked that the danger from very fine particulate emissions is only now being realised, and very fine particulates cannot be filtered out effectively from (the likes of) incinerator gaseous emissions. (9)

We now know that combustion products cause cancer and heart attacks. Dr. Andrew Lucking has postulated that in his home city of Edinburgh, if diesel buses had filters to remove small particles, heart attacks would stop! (10)

We are increasing anthropogenic nanoparticle emissions, with no adequate control for any particle size smaller than PM2.5.

Thirty-five years ago, in 1977, it was realised by Manchester University asbestos “expert” Professor Jack Zussman that “any material to which people are exposed on a large scale needs to be tested for its physiological effects”. (11) The material to which he referred was processed crushed mineral material – that is small particles of material exposed to the public on a massive scale!

The potential for causing harm to human health, from unregulated nanoparticles, many of which are anthropogenic, is immense and insufficient research is being applied to this problem. Most of the reasons I have been given, privately, are financial. I simply want to know who will be paying the bill in the future for the failure to act now.

We are supposed to learn from history but by the time something is done we may well be just too late for the many innocent victims of a failure to act today?

Yours sincerely,
Graham Cliff.

 References –
1)             Professor Sir Richard Doll, obituary, Telegraph, 25 July 2005.
2)             Dr. John F. Knox, obituary, Oxford Journal of Occupational Medicine, London, 1973.
3)             Dr. Barry Clark, text adapted from “A rationale for the mandatory limitation of outdoor lighting”, April, 2009. Original text from the author as a 111 page PDF. (Email - contact Graham Cliff)
4)             Prof Vyvyan Howard, “What they don’t know could hurt you”, Hazards magazine, 87, 2004.$FILE/nanotechsafety.pdf?OpenElement&enetarea=01
5)             Professor Ann Dowling, Royal Society Report, 29 July 2004. Quote in Hazards magazine, 2004
6)             Dr. Thomas Huffman, “Enemies of the people: Asbestos and the Reserve Mining Trial”, 2005.
7)             Cliff & Kenway, “The future of AEM: Toward atom analysis”, 47th EMSA, 1989.
8)             ChemiSTEM – FEI Inc, advertising PDF, 2011.
9)             Prof John Dearden, Parliamentary Waste Strategy Memorandum, DEFRA, 2007.
10)         Dr. Andrew Lucking, “Filtering fumes could reduce heart attacks”, Edinburgh University, 20 April 2011.
11)         Professor Jack Zussman, Proceedings NBS Asbestos Workshop, July 1977.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Excellent video on big business and its domination of American elections

This is well worth taking a look at -

Cheers to those Sunderland fans who helped make my son's first match a 'good un'

On Saturday I took my almost four-year old son to his first football match  - Sunderland versus Swansea. He had a great time, and what was heart warming was just how friendly total strangers were. Holding his hand as I tried to weave my way in and out of the crowds to get to our seats in the North Stand it was amazing how many people stepped out of the way - even ‘wrongly’ apologising for being in the way- gave the lad a great big smile and generally helped make it a special day out for him. Thanks to all of them for doing so. 

Help ban wild animals in circuses

The government is, once again, under pressure to ban wild animals in circuses. Sixty-six MPs have now signed a fresh early day motion in the House of Commons calling on Cameron and Clegg to act.

Currently the animals – defined by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs [Defra] as ‘a member of a species that is not normally domesticated in the British Isles…..not having a fixed place of residence for over six months’ -  are regulated under the Animal Welfare Act [AWA]. This was passed in 2006 and its wake a Circus Working Group [CWG] was established to consider specific legislation.

Containing representatives of the circus industry, animal welfare organisations and academics this disappointed animal welfare campaigners by failing to find sufficient scientific evidence to justify a complete ban on the grounds that the animal’s welfare need were not being satisfactorily met. The group was criticised by many for its unwillingness to consider photographic or video evidence, with animal rights organisations pointing out these showed animals being regularly beaten during training and enduring long periods of isolation.

In early 2010 members of the public were asked their opinion, when Defra asked people to complete a questionnaire on whether they supported a complete ban, voluntary or statutory regulation to safeguard the welfare of the animals, the numbers of which are estimated at between 40 and 50. The result was overwhelming, with 94% backing a complete ban.

Soon after the results were announced a new coalition Government was elected.

They replaced a Labour administration that had failed to follow through on its 20006 promise made by Ben Bradshaw, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs “to use a regulation under clause 10 of the Animal Welfare Bill to ban the use in travelling circuses of certain non-domesticated species whose welfare needs cannot be satisfactorily met in that environment.”

Yet if anyone harboured hopes of a change of attitude, from May 2010 onwards, they have proven misplaced. When Tory MP Mark Pritchard put down a motion in June 2011 in the Commons, asking MPs to support the public’s demand for a ban, he complained during the debate on it that he “had a call from the prime minister’s office directly and I was told that unless I withdrew this motion the prime minister would look upon it very dimly indeed. “

MP’s approved his motion with a formal vote, but with it not being binding Environment Minister Jim Paice, who’d like to see the Hunting Act repealed, said the government was restricted from acting because there was a “serious risk” of a legal challenge to any UK ban. This followed a legal challenge to Austria’s ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.

Last month though the Austrian courts dismissed this and on January 16th Pritchard asked Paice when “he expects to make progress on the banning of wild animals in circuses?”

With the Environment Minister replying that “we are considering its relevance to the legal position here” he is now coming under increasing pressure from MPs, with the numbers signing EDM 2563: Ban on Wild Animals in Circuses expected to rise sharply over the next few weeks.

As always the group Animal Aid at is doing an excellent job of bringing public pressure to bear and is urging members of the public to contact their MPs to ensure they sign the EDM. 

Friday, 20 January 2012

If you'd like to tackle disability hate crime then get involved

There's a great facebook group working on tackling disability hate crime - 2,000 people have signed up and if you'd like to join them then see -

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Are we moving towards a government of national recovery?

Labour ‘leader’ Ed Miliband’s decision to throw his parties lot in with the coalition government’s cuts agenda must surely give rise to the question ‘what’s the use of the Labour Party?’ Because having long since abandoned the Labour heartlands - through its adoption of policies which have significantly widened the gap between rich and poor - it’s now set on a collision course with its own supporters in the trade union movement and the public sector workers they represent.

If that’s the case then why not go the whole hog and seek to enter government by becoming a junior partner in it? If there’s nothing to differentiate Labour’s policies, then surely that’s the obvious next step during these ‘straightened economic times?’

Three words, which in the case of all three major parties means refusing to accept that the accepted neo-liberal economic dogma of the last 35 years of letting the rich run riot by multiplying their incomes, at the expense of all others, is now threatening the very system they so passionately defend. One that it has to be said that continues to mean abject poverty for at least a 1/6th of the world’s population, and alienation for a good many more.

Miliband’s move seems to be an attempt to imitate earlier election successes. First there was Labour’s promise not to alter the Tories spending for two years if they were elected in 1997. Then at last year’s election the Tories were unwilling to map out in detail what their promised CHANGE actually consisted of and the Liberal Democrats, of course, appeared not to be in favour of making any cuts – especially in student tuition fees.

However he could well find himself outflanked if the Tories are clever enough to go to the polls when really they’ve got no effective opposition – by which I mean from a Party, unlike Clegg’s lot, that actually could win a majority at an election. In such a case what is the worst that could happen for Cameron? He again ends up needing Liberal support, which from their actions over the last 18 months seems pretty guaranteed.

Also things aren’t going to get better – in fact, as I’ve written before the ruling class, which the Tories are part of, and all the political parties are working to serve; don’t want it to. They hope, and are using the current crisis to try and permanently drive down people’s standards of living and expectations.  I laughed when a Labour MP I know well – but who shall remain anonymous – told me in the middle of last year that the Tories would go to the polls before the Olympics. She might just be right, not that it’s going to do her much good. 

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Drop Eddie Gilfoyle's murder conviction and prosecute the police

A Merseyside man’s 20-year struggle against his conviction for murdering his wife has taken a dramatic turn following revelations that the police kept hidden her personal papers from at least 1994.

At trial Eddie Gilfoyle argued his wife Paula committed suicide. However evidence from friends and family about her contentment with life helped convince the Jury he had tricked his wife into leaving a suicide note before killing her.

In 1995 the dead woman’s state of mind was cited as grounds for rejecting the first of two appeals. Having maintained his innocence, Gilfoyle left prison in December 2010. Shortly before Merseyside Police handed, his legal team, Paula’s previously unseen personal effects revealing an earlier overdose of pills and letters from two ex-boyfriends threatening suicide. In one the language used resembles her final letter.

With Gilfoyle’s case before the Criminal Cases Review Commission the former Assistant Chief Constable for Merseyside Police, Alison Halford, has demanded an independent inquiry and the Home Secretary’s involvement into the latest events.

An online petition supporting Eddie Gilfoyle is at

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Buy the badge and help fund the Miners’ Memorial Sculpture at Allerton Bywater

Buy the badge and help fund the Miners’ Memorial Sculpture at Allerton Bywater

A memorial sculpture dedicated to the 80 miners who were killed, and hundreds of others who died from work-related diseases, whilst  extracting coal at Allerton Bywater Colliery in West Yorkshire will be unveiled on September 8th this year.  

Some of the money for the memorial has been raised through sale of an exquisite red and gold enamel badge in the shape of a miniature miners’ lamp bearing the words “Allerton Bywater Colliery Miners’ Memorial.”

They still have 700 badges, available by sending cheques for £5 and 70p postage made out to The Allerton Bywater Colliery Memorial Fund, to 7, Woodside Grove, Allerton Bywater, West Yorkshire, WF10 2HG.


The epic story of race and the American media

Juan Gonzalez and Joseph Torres
Verso books

The blurb on the front cover of this book claims “we’ve needed this book for a long time.” As I agreed I thought it would be good to review it for the Big Issue in the North magazine and I received the go-head from the deputy editor to read the book and then submit some questions – via Verso’s London office – to the authors. I’ve done about 20 or so such reviews over the last few years and have always received replies, even if on occasions they were a little later than originally promised.

The book is 400 pages long and so took a fair bit of time to read. As you don’t get much for reviewing a book in the Big Issue then the opportunity to read books that you’d like to read anyway is, in part, compensation for the time spent. Part hobby/part work is how it might be described.

The book was very interesting and so I duly sent off the questions and waited and waited….and more than three months later I am still waiting…..even the people at Verso in London appear embarrassed. So I’ve given up, the authors rightly illustrate throughout the book how black people have been excluded and marginalised from mainstream American media. Yet they can’t be bothered to answer some questions for a magazine that helps similarly marginalised people in the homeless? It makes me wonder about their motivation in writing it. 

The Iron Lady film lacks substance

The Iron Lady

This biographical film about former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, played by Meryl Streep, is a pretty dull depiction of a remarkable woman who changed – for the worse – the direction of British politics.

By focusing on Thatcher as a woman in a man’s world, allocating too much time to her rise to power and using her current senility as the base to look back the film struggles to properly capture the conviction neo-liberal politician that the Tory leader was.

Consequently the multi-faceted fightbacks that eventually led to her own political demise, but not the politics she spawned, are inadequately represented on screen.

We learn that she stood up to the unions - particularly the Miners. Yet there’s no depiction of their leader, Arthur Scargill, or the largest movement of working class women in British history, Women Against Pit Closures. They wanted to protect the communities that she aimed to destroy.

She imposed a hated Poll Tax whereby the rich and poor all paid the same for their local services. Yet there’s nothing about how, after it was first introduced there, it helped create the initial stirrings for Scottish Independence and left the Tories dependent on their support in southern England.

We learn that she stood up for Britain in Europe, but we have no idea that it’s in order to ensure the Tories can continue to drive back the social welfare gains made at the end of the Second World War. A policy that today’s Tories and Liberals are all too happy to continue.

In the film Thatcher is quoted as saying she didn’t “want to manage the decline of this great nation” and the implication is that she didn’t. As such, and despite enjoying the benefits of massive North Sea Oil revenues, we find out little about her Government’s economic policies that were so destructive to British manufacturing with huge swathes of industry, especially across the north, swept away rather than provided with political and economic support.

Love or like me, loathe Thatcher it should be possible to make a great film on her. This is certainly not it. 

Friday, 6 January 2012

Golden Boot book now out




Including George Best, Jimmy Greaves, Gary Linkeker, Kevin Phillips, Alan Shearer, Dixie Dean, Mick Channon, Nat Lofthouse, Pop Robson, Jimmy Ross, Jack Southworth, Nat Lofthouse, David Halliday, Bob Latchford, John Charles, Roger Hunt, Stan Mortensen, Johnny Campbell, Enoch West, Frank Worthington, Malcolm McDonald, Andy Wilson, Frank Bowers, Charlie Buchan........

out now from Amberley Publishing and bookshops and Amazon 

Thursday, 5 January 2012

What's happening at Tata Steel in Scunthorpe?

This is an unpublished article - it was written for Unite works magazine in September 2011. 

Given the opportunity to retire at 60 on a generous final salary pension, as well as the added bonus of a lump sum, then most people would jump at it. Especially when it would bring to an end 37 years as a steelworker in one of Europe’s largest plants. Bill Gray, Unite works convenor at Tata Steel in Scunthorpe, is different.  Stung by having to deal with the loss of over a thousand jobs, a quarter of the workforce, he’s determined to help ensure a brighter future for those he represents and the local economy as a whole.

It means he’s willing to support plans for new products, involving moving out of low market value steel products, and into more valuable markets such as high grade plate, tyre cord and rail. “It’s a case of quality, rather than quantity, as lower wage levels in Eastern Europe, India and China means they can produce bulk steel considerably cheaper” says Bill realistically.

All of which has meant big losses. So with the construction industry still battered by the worldwide economic crisis brought on by irresponsible banking practices - not forgetting the subsequent austerity measures adopted by the likes of the UK government - then Bill doesn’t mind admitting he “feared that if the previous owners Corus hadn’t sold up to Tata we would now be moving towards closure.”  

So whilst he certainly wasn’t happy in May to be informed that cuts in Tata’s Long Products division was going to hit Scunthorpe particularly hard he was buoyed by news that the company was going to invest up to £400 million in it over the next five years. As part of this £4.2 million is being spent next year installing new fans, motors and drives to save energy and reduce emissions at Scunthorpe.

Meanwhile there have been no plans to reduce the number of new apprentices, with 65 set to start in September.

They’ll be studying to become fitters, welders, electricians, chemists and metallurgists and Bill is delighted saying; “We are going to need these skills as we move forward and seek new markets. We have an ageing workforce and we need to equip young people with some real skills during their three-year apprenticeships and then continue to update these through their working lives. Unite wants to see the skills levels on site increase and will push, and work with, management and other unions to ensure this happens.” 

Meanwhile though there’s the difficult problem of working through who might be losing their current jobs. Because most are on the process side then Unite members aren’t being hit as hard as those in Community. That’s no real consolation to Bill and all unions on site have worked together on convincing management - successfully he believes - that considerably fewer posts should be axed.

There’s a real determination to prevent compulsory redundancies, helped, in part by the fact that steelworkers can retire aged 60 with a pension that matches their final salary scale.

The unions will also negotiate a voluntary redundancy package for those who want to leave and have backed a local Task Force whose aims include helping find alternative employment or support to set up in business.

Meanwhile Bill is, after the Task Force met Prime Minister David Cameron, looking to see the Government “buy into the concept of wind energy” and as such build on the support it gave earlier this year to the construction by E.On of 77 wind turbines five miles off nearby Spurn Point. Once operational the Humber Gateway offshore wind farm should generate enough electricity to power 150,000 homes a year.

That though could be a drop in the ocean. In June 2008 the previous Government drew up plans to build up to 7,000 wind turbines at a cost of £80 billion, something business secretary Vince Cable was reminded of by local council’s when he visited Scunthorpe in July.

Bill Gray, and all Tata employees, are now hoping for further developments and he shares the views of Unite at a national level which is that the ‘wind energy sector has the potential to generate nearly quarter of a million UK ‘green’ jobs, helping lead the UK out of the recession and towards energy security.  Unite believes this vital green industry is in danger of being totally lost to countries which are doing more to support this emerging market.”

Thousands more wind turbines will mean much more high-grade steel will be needed. Steel, a refashioned Scunthorpe plant will be in a position to supply. Thus generating much needed profits that “can then be invested to help ensure a long-term sustainable future for the Scunthorpe plant when the construction industry begins its revival” said Bill anticipating a time when he will finally be able to enjoy his own retirement.